Inside the Atelier des Lumières, Paris’ First (All)-Digital Art Museum

Last Updated on February 9, 2024

Simulation Monet, Renoir... Chagall. Voyages en Méditerranée - Photo © Lefevre Fine Art Ltd., London - © Bridgeman Images
A multimedia show on Monet, Renoir, Chagall at the Atelier des Lumières. Photo © Lefevre Fine Art Ltd., London – © Bridgeman Images

When I learned that an all-digital art museum and cultural space called the Atelier des Lumières would be opening its doors in Paris sometime in 2018, I was more than a little skeptical. As a scholar of contemporary literature, I’ve been interested in digital books and artistic forms for quite some time, especially intrigued by how these experiments can potentially reshape our reading practices (and our perception of the world, more generally).

But I’ve too often found existing attempts at digital experimentation in art and literature to be– for lack of a polite way of putting it–  more gimmicky than compelling. There are, of course, some notable exceptions: Shirley Jackson’s hypertext novel Patchwork Girl is one ; William Gibson and Dennis Ashbaugh’s collaborative digital and print hybrid, Agrippa: A Book of the Dead, is another.

But these were both published in the late ’80s and early 1990s– hardly evidence of a new burst of artistic vibrancy in the digital realm.

And on the whole, the prediction that digital books (or art) would lead to the end of their traditional print counterparts has simply not come to pass. Why? I believe it’s partly because people crave tactile experiences. The textures, colors and even smells of print forms continue to mesmerize us– perhaps even more so in a world where the digital is now such a dominant part of our daily experience.

This may help explain, for example, why there’s been a resurgence of popular interest in illuminated medieval manuscripts. In a world where so many of us are addicted to our smartphones, unplugging doesn’t generally mean engaging with more digital stuff. Or does it?

Enter the Atelier des Lumières: From Iron Foundry to Exhibition Hall

The immersive Klimt and Viennese artists show at the Atelier des Lumieres in Paris, France
Image credit: Culturespaces/Nuit de Chine

My skepticism ended as soon as I set foot inside the Atelier, a cultural center situated in a reconverted iron foundry dating to the early 19th century. After closing in the 1920s and falling into disuse for decades, the foundry attracted the interest of Culturespaces, an arts foundation that had already launched a successful digital arts center in the southern French city of Baux-de-Provence.

{Related: An Interview With Bruno Monnier, CEO of Culturespaces & the Atelier des Lumières}

After four years of intensive renovations, the foundry re-opened in a new incarnation, launching three simultaneous opening shows in the spring of 2018.

After selling out tickets for the Gustav Klimt and Vienna Secession exhibit, followed by a blockbuster show on Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh and a tribute to the impressionist and expressionist painting of Monet, Renoir and Chagall, the Atelier des Lumières has firmly secured its place in the Parisian arts and culture landscape.

Current Shows & Events at the Atelier, & Booking Tickets

To see what’s currently running at the Atelier des Lumières and reserve tickets online (recommended), see this page at the official website.

Headlining exhibits in 2024 include a show on the Egyptian pharaohs and “The Orientalists”, spotlighting the work of Ingres, Delacroix and Gérôme.

Wondering how to book tickets to the Atelier des Lumières? You can do so online here (via Tiqets).

My Review: A Hypnotic (& Remarkably Sensual) Immersive Experience

The Atelier’s inaugural, immersive exhibit on Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and the history of the Vienna Secession movement in the arts attracted continuous hordes of visitors during its run in 2018 and early 2019.

Less an “exhibit” in the traditional sense than a projection-based multimedia performance that you take in as you would a play or a short film, the show marked the 100th anniversary of Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele’s death in 1918.

Rather than wandering around the gallery during the hypnotic, immersive show, I and a friend took a seat on the ground, and simply watched the story of the Austrian avant-garde unfold in mesmerizing real time.

Visitors seated at the Atelier des Lumieres in Paris
Most visitors, include me and a friend, sat on the ground of the exhibition hall to take in the immersive show of shimmering digital images and music. Image: Courtney Traub/All rights reserved

The vast hall was transformed into a surreal world of rich color, light and music that’s remarkably sensual. It marked a stunning transition from the classical period in Austrian and European art to the Secession movement, which reverently incorporated many aspects of classical art and mythology into a bold modern aesthetic and perspective.

A panel honoring the work of Austrian artist Egon Schiele (and his distinctive, contorted figures). Image: Courtney Traub/All rights reserved
A panel honoring the work of Austrian artist Egon Schiele (and his haunting, contorted figures). Image: Courtney Traub/All rights reserved

From the hypnotic golds and blues of Klimt’s nudes and enigmatic friezes, to the slightly disturbing yet fascinating contorted figures of Schiele and the intensely bright, dream-like landscapes of Friedensreich Hundertwasser, a singular artistic moment unfolds before your eyes.


The show almost seems– improbably and magically– to summon the movement’s conception into our present moment. There’s an immediacy and richness to it that’s both striking and surprising, accustomed as we are to moving images.

Unlike some of the first film audiences, who according to dubious legend jumped away in fear and delight at the projected image of a moving train on the screen, we live in a world where 3D movies and IMAX theatres have rendered digital images perfectly banal. Yet this exhibit is different from those mediums. It seems to belong to a new artistic genre.

Related: Inside Fluctuart, a Floating Museum on the Seine Devoted to Street Art

In short, it’s an astonishing success. One that’s changing perceptions of the possibilities that lie in digital art. While some might complain that it’s derivative, in that it’s a work of art that borrows so heavily from past artists, I’d point to the way the show itself heavily underlines the presence of classical artistic tropes and literary myths in Klimt, Schiele and others. There is no art without predecessors.

An ephemeral digital moment at the new Atelier des Lumieres, Paris. Image: Courtney Traub/All rights reserved
An ephemeral digital moment at the new Atelier des Lumieres, Paris. Image: Courtney Traub/All rights reserved

For an updated list of shows at the Atelier, see this page. 

The Atelier des Lumières: Practical Information and Getting There

Vincent Van Gogh Starry Night exhibit at the Atelier des Lumières digital art museum in Paris

The museum is located in northeast Paris in close reach of the Père-Lachaise/Ménilmontant neighborhood, with easy access via metro or bus.

  • Address: 38 Rue Saint Maur, 75011 (11th arrondissement)
  • Metro: St. Maur (Line 3) or Père Lachaise (Line 2, 3, 11)
  • Open: Monday to Thursday, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm; Friday and Saturday until 10 pm and Sunday until 7:00 pm. Please note that the ticket office closes at 4:00 pm Monday to Friday; on weekends, tickets can only be purchased online (visit the link below)
  • Accessibility: This museum is accessible to visitors with wheelchairs
  • Shopping onsite: There is an onsite giftshop and bookstore

Visit the official website for tickets and more info on current exhibits.

You can also book tickets to the Atelier des Lumières here (via Tiqets).

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atelier des lumieres in paris, Gustav Klimt and the Secession movement. Image courtesy of Culturespaces.

2 thoughts on “Inside the Atelier des Lumières, Paris’ First (All)-Digital Art Museum

  1. I am taking my adult son and his 13 year old twins to Paris in the middle of April, 2020. How far in advance do you think I should purchase the tickets, and are certain days preferable for me to choose (or not to!)?

    1. Hello and thanks for reading! It would be best to reserve tickets as soon as possible for the Atelier des Lumières as it’s a very popular venue. Weekday mornings are usually ideal for avoiding crowds, but since this show lets in a certain number of people at a time you shouldn’t have an issue whenever you go. Bon voyage! –Courtney

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